TAPS FOR A COUNTRY

Skagway High School senior Arlen McCluskey plays “Taps” as members of the Skagway Volunteer Fire Department fold a commemorative flag for the victims of the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. The flag was lowered to half-staff a year ago at the entrance to town, taken down, and then raised and lowered during Wednesday’s ceremony. The 9-11 Memorial Service was held at Centennial Park at noon. About 100 residents and visitors stopped what they were doing to remember the victims, honor those in service to community and country, pray, say the Pledge of Allegiance, and sing “God Bless America.” Jeff Brady

Borough petition denied

City will take a breather and wait for final report

By DIMITRA LAVRAKAS
The City of Skagway saw its bid to become a borough struck down Aug. 31. In a unanimous vote, the Local Boundary Commission, meeting here, determined the borough petition did not meet all of the required 18 standards.
“Reluctantly” – a majority of them said of their vote.
In particular, the borough’s size did not fit into the state constitution requirement that it be a “large region.”
Another stumbling point was whether Dyea was a separate community, and if the “social, cultural and economic characteristics and activities of the residents of the proposed borough are interrelated and integrated.” Although local testimony seemed to win some over on that point.
“It didn’t go well, although we made great strides,” said Mayor Tim Bourcy in his report to the city council last week. “In the beginning, we didn’t make 10 of the 18 standards, in the end it was only one.
“The people of Skagway should be very proud of the presentation we put forth,” he said. “We are not done.”
City Manager Bob Ward this week said the city will take a step back and wait for the commission’s final report, and then figure where to go from there.

Members of the Local Boundary Commission prepare to board a bus for a tour of Skagway during their Aug. 31 hearing . - DL

Commission members are appointed by the governor, and each represents a judicial district except for an at-large seat.
Kevin Waring of Anchorage fills the at-large position; Allan Tesche of Anchorage, the Third Judicial District; Ardith Lynch of Fairbanks, the Fourth Judicial District;
To fill two vacancies in the Local Boundary Commission, Gov. Tony Knowles on July 24 appointed Merna Gardner of Juneau, First Judicial District and Robert Harcharek of Barrow, Second Judicial District, to the commission.
The nearly eight-hour-long meeting saw testimony from the public and witnesses testifying for the city. About a dozen residents signed up to speak, but when the meeting flowed from mid-afternoon to early evening, some dropped out.
By 12:45 a.m., few remained.
A suggestion by the commission that Skagway become a home-rule city or come back to the commission asking it to look again at the model borough boundaries established by the Alaska Constitutional Convention, startled some. These options had never been suggested prior to the hearing.
Ward said Tuesday the city essentially opened up the model borough issue by applying for borough status.
“Basically that’s what we did by filing the application,” said Ward in his office. “A Skagway borough may have amended the model boundaries act.”
There may be strength in numbers, Ward said, if there was a class action suit to look at the model boundaries. The majority of Alaska towns and cities are still not in organized boroughs.
While the petition was not approved, commission members praised the city for its proposal presentation and were impressed with Skagway.
“I am truly impressed with the spirit of this community and its concerns for the economy,” said Tesche.
The city showed how it funded major capital projects, education and other emergencies like the recent Dyea flood.
“You could hardly have made a better case,” said Waring. “There are other ways to skin this cat.

Cougar spotted in Skagway

Fish and Game says to stay alert

Two sightings of a cougar in the Skagway area over a month-long period this summer prompted the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to post an alert on Aug. 30.
A press release was issued after a local resident and police officer saw the cougar near Skagway City Hall at Seventh and Spring early in the morning of Aug. 24.
Police Chief Dennis Spurrier said his officer didn’t have time to snap a photo of the animal.
“It was like, ‘Whoa, what was that?’, and it went back into the woods,” Spurrier said.
It is assumed the mountain lion came over the White Pass from British Columbia, Spurrier said, probably to check out the salmon returning to Pullen Creek
The other report of a cougar sighting came on July 29, in a call left on the Police Department’s answering machine. That report said the cougar was seen by the “city Dumpster,” presumably at the north end of town.
Spurrier said the cougar has not been a threat and he believes it has left the area.
“With the fish dwindling out, I suspect he went back to where there are less people and more food,” Spurrier said last week.
It may be the same cougar that some residents have glimpsed on the Klondike Highway in the Tutshi Lake area over the past couple years.
With the double sighting in Skagway, the state issued the following precautions to take, similar to those used to decrease risks in bear country:
• Contact police if there is an immediate threat to human safety.
• Make sure no food or garbage is available to attract a mountain lion.
• Small children should not play outside unsupervised, and parents should know where they are playing.
• Brush out undergrowth around residences and install outdoor lighting to improve visibility.
• Keep pets and livestock secure. – JEFF BRADY

Ten-foot rule unconstitutional

Judge says it ‘may not be enforced’

By DIMITRA LAVRAKAS
The so-called 10-foot rule in a city ordinance was struck down by Superior Court Judge Larry Weeks on Aug. 30. The ordinance would have prohibited a person from selling or offering for sale anything in the public street or sidewalks of Skagway and on private property up to 10 feet from streets and sidewalks, unless a permit is issued.
Last year, Dave Lee, owner of Southeast Tours and Dave and Jeanne Gonzalez, owners of Frontier Excursions, filed a motion for summary judgment to determine whether the ordinance violated the First Amendment.
In his memorandum and order, Weeks writes that the plaintiffs argue the ordinance is overbroad because, in its effort to regulate commercial speech, it also restricts non commercial speech which is constitutionally protected. The City of Skagway argued that it only restricts commercial speech, and that the overbreadth doctrine does not apply to regulation of commercial speech.
“This ordinance restricts more than commercial speech,” wrote Weeks. “This ordinance’s language potentially applies not only to these sorts of purely commercial transactions described by Skagway, but also to sales inextricably intertwined with such firmly protected expression as that bearing political or religious messages.”
Weeks points out that the ordinance would prohibit newsboys from selling newspapers on the street or a political campaign from selling tickets to a fund-raiser.
David Lee, owner of Southeast Tours, said his understanding is that commercial speech shares many of the protections granted to non-commercial freedom of speech.
“When people ask, ‘Where’s the bathroom?’ Where’s the post office?’ – that’s not commercial speech,” Lee said. “It makes it difficult to control commercial speech. I don’t see it (ruling) as a victory for us, but a victory for the consumer.”
Lee said under the city ordinance, a tourist did not have the right to stand on public property and take information from sales people.
“Now the tourist has the right to make a much more informed decision,” he said.
Lee has tour sales sites at Portobello Restaurant, the “cubbyhole” next to the Trail Bench, and in an unused entryway at Little Switzerland at Broadway and Fifth. He bought the company in 1998 from local resident Robert Murphy, after he and his son, Brian, worked for Murphy for a summer. The company has grown, and he sees a jump in employees from nine this year to 10-12 next season. He said he lost 92 percent of his income when the ordinance was in effect.
Jeanne and David Gonzalez, who have owned Frontier Excursions for 12 years , are year-round residents. Jeanne also expressed relief, but some frustration, with the decision.
“It’s all over, but I’m sure the city will continue to address it,” she said.
Gonzalez said she presented a plan to the city to deal with hawking on city streets, but it was not addressed.
“If they don’t want multiple locations in town, then if you’re represented by the brokerage you could be limited to one location in town,” she said. “... Living here, I don’t want multiple sellers on a street myself, but this is the only way I’ve figured how to address it.”
Her main hope, she said, is if the City Council makes plans for next summer, that it does so with more notice than four to six weeks before the season starts.
As for David Lee, he said he hopes the city will step back, and if there’s problems, meet with tour companies.
The city will not take any further action on Judge Weeks’ decision, said City Manager Bob Ward.
“The judge’s decision is somewhat final and it doesn’t really leave much room for discussion,” said Ward. “Because of it, we are not going to enforce that ordinance until we come up with a new ordinance.”

CITY DIGEST

Hunz given check for interest, Bounds case settle - terms undisclosed

The matter of a check for interest stemming from the Fire Hall Bay 4 project was approved for Hunz & Hunz at the Sept. 5 council meeting. Dave Hunz, owner, claimed the city owed him interest for the invoice submitted for the work.
However, the invoice was not paid because of a protest filed by Bert Bounds, owner of Bounds Electric, who claimed the city should not have awarded the contract to Hunz without it going out to bid again and that the contract was not signed by the mayor according to city code. Bounds bid for the contract and was awarded it, but then declined to perform the work without the monetary penalties removed. The case went to court, and was settled last week. Council approved the settlement, but the terms have not been made public because a release has not been signed.
City Manager Bob Ward was directed by the Council to negotiate with Hunz for a sum reflecting the interest accrued when the check was not awarded in a timely manner. The amount agreed upon was $1,035.36 for the interest lost from April 4, the completion of the contract, to May 20, when the check for the contratc was cut.
The vote was 4-1, with Hisman voting against it, and Selmer, Frey, Korsmo and Henry, for it.
“I hope we don’t find ourselves in this situation again,” said Stan Selmer. – DL

West Creek banks secured
The West Creek flood bank repair work is done, said Ward at the meeting. Most of the debris is out of the river. All that is left is placing some boulders in the river for fish habitat when it’s high and dry, but that could be some time, Ward said. The moraine is gone, so there is drainage from the glacier.
“There’s a fairly large stockpile of material there and we will make it available to residents to shore up their property,” he said.
There is also some sentiment to repair access roads to the subdivisions, and Ward asked the Council to consider that.
“We need to get up the West Creek road and take a look,” he said. “There is still no access to the end of the West Creek road.” – DL

Golden North entry in limbo: P&Z decision goes back to Council

The Planning and Zoning Commission withdrew its approval for Dennis Corrington, owner of the Golden North Hotel, to add a glass-covered patio to the front of the historic building.
Corrington has appealed the decision to the Skagway City Council, which will meet as a Board of Appeals Thursday night, Sept. 19.Corrington contends the improvement being planned is historic and that early photographs showed the entryway. The Historic District Commission said it was not similar to the arctic entry that used to be on the building, and refused permission.
The HDC had turned down his request twice, even after the size was scaled down. Corrington appealed once to the Board of Appeals, which upheld the HDC’s initial decision. He then appealed the scaled-down version to the Planning and Zoning Commission, where it was approved.
After that P&Z approval, HDC members and the descendants of former owners of the hotel asked the City Council to send the matter back to the HDC, and a member of the P&Z asked for reconsideration.
HDC members testified at the special Aug. 29 Planning and Zoning meeting that it was senseless to have legal standards if they were not enforced.
Casey McBride, HDC chair, said the entryway applied for is larger than the old one and does not fit the building’s architecture.
With testimony limited to three minutes, Corrington donated his to McBride, who was going over-time, saying, “The way this is going I might as well.”
“We made the decision on design criteria, this is not a vendetta against Mr. Corrington,” McBride said.
HDC member Teresa Thibault said it should be reconsidered so HDC can see what laws P&Z used to overturn HDC.
HDC member Virginia Long said as a business owner in the Historic District she understood his frustration.“We all feel the brunt, we also reap the benefit,” she said.
The P&Z unanimously voted Aug. 29 to rescind their decision and remand the matter back to the HDC.
Monday night, Corrington came before the HDC asking to move the double doors back to the center of the building, and it was approved.
Sept. 21, Corrington will hold an auction to sell the contents of the bar, brewery, restaurant, and restaurant.
While not seeing this issue as connected to the HDC’s refusal to allow the glass entryway, Corrington said he was not angry with HDC, but he needed to get back to what he knows best – retail.
“We had a wonderful romantic relationship with the hotel and the history, but the realities of day-to-day operation and the enormous cost of compliance and the total lack of city endorsement or cooperation made the decision easy,” Corrington said before Tuesday night’s HDC meeting. – DL

OTHER FEATURES THIS ISSUE:

• "HEARD ON THE WIND" for the electronically challenged...

• ELECTIONS 2002: Introducing the candidates; State Primary Results

• SPORTS: Mulvihill leads Panther wins in Haines, Juneau

• FISH THIS! - Pullen Madness

• FERRY CHANGES - Winter the same, big changes for summer of '03

• KLONDIKE ROAD RELAY - "Heard on the Run"

• EVENTS: "Santaland Diaries" and more...

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